Echo Point is probably the most visited attraction in the Blue Mountains yet few people have ever heard an actual echo from this location. There are in fact a number of Blue Mountains locations named for and associated with echoes. The traditional method to test for an echo was to shout Coo-ee and wait.
In 1993 the Sydney Morning Herald’s Column 8 asked whether ‘Echo Point’ was a misnomer. The article charged that when a Herald colleague recently let out a hearty Cooee at Echo Point, the only response received was suspicion from all present.
Coo-ee was among the first Aboriginal words taken into English by the First Fleeters, it comes from the Dharug word ‘guu-wii’, literally “come here”, but the Europeans noted early in the piece that the Dharug used it as a shrill call to communicate over long distances.
John Low, of Springwood Library, said that the echoless Echo Point controversy is not new, the debate’s last occurrence was in December, 1987.
As I recall, Labor Premier Joe Cahill …when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Echo Point during their first Australian tour. Cahill’s itinerary for the royals was to steer them to Labor-held electorates or, if they weren’t held by Labor, to send one of his ministers as official greeter.
Thus it was that on a perfect day, as the Queen and her party stepped off the special train at Katoomba station, they were greeted not by the mayor and his town clerk but by Education Minister Clive Evatt.
The mayor had lodged a protest when it was learned that Evatt would be the official greeter, but to no avail. Evatt then introduced the mayor and town clerk, wearing their robes of office. The official party then went by car to Echo Point, which was packed with thousands of schoolchildren and adults waving small Union Jacks.
A few paces behind the party walked Gordon Short, a senior photographer for The Sydney Morning Herald. The late ‘Shortie’ was the pool photographer for the day and I am indebted to him for this story.
As the party walked towards Echo Point, Evatt told the Queen: ‘Your Majesty, this area is noted for its echo. That is why it is called Echo Point.’
‘Not really,’ interjected the town clerk. ‘It is a bit of a misnomer, really. The echo here is not very good, actually.’
‘Rubbish,’ said Evatt and let off a loud ‘Cooee’.
His effort raised no response from Echo Point. He let go another ‘Cooee’.
Shortie, a few paces behind the royal party, decided to help out. After a studied pause, he replied to Evatt’s effort with a sotto voce ‘Cooee’.
‘There, did you hear that?’ he asked everyone.
The Queen and the Duke looked at each other and grinned. Evatt let another one go and Shortie obliged after a studied delay. Evatt could not contain himself. He Cooeed another four or five times and Shortie obliged on each occasion. Evatt was beside himself- and so were the other members of the party.” Sun-Herald 15/3/1998